Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So Close To Normal, Yet So Far For Swimming

I've never had physical therapy before, but after just one visit and doing the exercises this week my arm is feeling better than ever. For most things, it's very close to normal and I can even pick up a bag of groceries, open a door, or unscrew a jar.

For swimming of course, any deviation from normal is so darn noticeable. I think it really speaks to the importance of perfect form in swimming because really my arm is so close to being able to straighten that you wouldn't notice it in every day use. But in the pool, those slight milimeters of not-quite-straight make a HUGE difference in my swimming stroke. This tells you that if you're not getting your arms straight during the glide phase of your swimming stroke, you're doing yourself a huge disservice.

There are only two things my arm can't do quite correctly in the stroke. The first is be completely straight in front of me while gliding, and that alone cuts down on my speed when I stroke with the left arm. I can literally feel the glide go away with every other stroke. The second thing it can't do is to keep the high elbow on the catch and that makes a huge difference in the amount of propulsion that my left side can produce. These two things together point out in my mind the importance of good form, good flexibility, and keeping the elbow high in the catch.

As my arm gains flexibility, my speed is gradually coming back. Two weeks ago I couldn't break 1:30 for my average 100 pace. This last Saturday I hit 1:23 in my 300s, 1:21 in my 200s and 1:17 in the 100s. That's a huge difference in about ten days, and it's all due to flexibility and form, not any kind of conditioning. So if you're reading this with an eye to improving your swim times, you might think about doing some drills and working on straightening out your gliding arm, and keeping that elbow high on the catch! It might make a huge difference for you too.

Other than swimming, my bike riding is still probably the most impacted of all of my sports. Because of the way your weight rests on your elbows on aerobars, I can't ride my tri bike yet outside. I can do it on the trainer as long as I have a pillow under my bad arm. In karate, I'm still limited to doing kata (forms) and no contact, but at least I can still practice that regularly. All in all, everything is slowly coming back, and at six weeks after the break, I have a lot more range of motion and strength than I had hoped for.


Anonymous said...

thank for share, it is very important . ̄︿ ̄

Marv said...

I understand about the form in swimming being altered somewhat. Coming from rotator cuff surgery in January, I have problems maintaining a high elbow and just noticed my follow through with that arm was inconsistent with the good arm. But, it is coming back and doesn't it feel good to be headed in that direction?

Robin said...

Definitely feels great to be doing better! One thing about an injury is that you feel profoundly grateful for everything you can do that you used to take for granted.